Nothing could be further from the truth! If your spouse, parent, sibling or other loved one had been the one diagnosed with a chronic, painful, incurable disease would you think less of them? Probably not. I think most of us would want to help support that person, ask what we could do to help, let them know we are there for them. Offer to do whatever we could.
But for some reason, so many of us seem to take our diagnosis, and how it impacts out lives and changes what we can or cannot do and look upon ourselves as flawed and somehow weak and beat ourselves up because we didn't get the house cleaned to the perfection we used to, or we can't host Thanksgiving like we once did.
It's a process, but I think it's important to say that getting sick isn't a personality flaw! You are NOT weak because you can't do what you once could. It's OK to experience feelings of loss over the changes we have to make to accommodate our illness. But working through those feelings is important and leaning on our loved ones is something we should walk toward not away from.
I realize not everyone has the perfect, supportive friends and even family. But seek the people who DO support you. Ask for their help if you need it. Think about why you think being sick makes you "less than" you were before.
I guarantee you, no one ever lay on their death bed wishing they had spent more time cleaning their house. But they do wish they had spent more time with those they love. Even if you can't run around the yard with your children anymore, spending time with them is what they will remember. Just being with you; doing quiet activities is important. They will remember you were there for them when they are adults. And, in the process, I believe you will have taught your children to be caring, empathetic adults who will be there for those they love because you taught them how to do this as they grew up.
Hiding how much pain you are in from family and friends isn't a sign of strength and serves no purpose. You don't have to make a huge deal out of not feeling good. But let's say you are at a party or family gathering (those will be popping up starting this week). If you are asked how you are feeling, simply state you are not feeling well but you prefer not to dwell on it. Ask if that person is willing to go sit with you in a comfortable place and visit with you and distract you from your discomfort; tell them this will lift your spirits. How many people would actually say No to a request like that? Then re-direct the conversation to them, their family, what they've been up to. If they want to ask more about your IC, tell them what they want to know but keep it simple and don't monopolize the conversation with it. I always give myself a cut off point before I pivot the conversation back to the other person.
I find this works well for helping to lift my spirits, as I mentioned. I love hearing about my friends, what they are doing, their work, family etc. The ones who have stuck by me are the ones that truly understand my situation and always ask about me. I tell them, but don't dwell and move the conversation along after bringing them up to date.
It's not weak to admit you are in pain. In fact I think it takes a lot of bravery to show others that we do need help, love and support to get us through our struggles. No one should ever feel guilty for getting sick. So as we approach this Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season, I want to encourage everyone to change their expectations of themselves. Don't feel you have to do what you've always done. If you need to change the plan, whatever that may be, to accommodate your physical needs, then do it. Ask for the support you need. Let family know you want to BE with them; that's what we want most. Just time with those we love. It's not about being Martha Stewart. It's about spending time with loved ones and not being afraid to ask for help when we need it.
You are not weak if you admit you are in pain. You are you. You are still the person your family loved before and that hasn't changed! I think living with chronic pain is brave and every single one of us needs to give ourselves more credit than we do! We are stronger than we know and asking for help doesn't make us weak!